October 24, 2015 is Food Day, a day that inspires many to change the way they interact with food. Food Day is also a good time to get inspired and take a look at what you are really eating. This year Food Day has the theme “Toward a Greener Diet.” Part of a green diet is consuming foods such as fresh produce. When consuming produce we often consider different kinds of fruits and vegetables, but it is also important to take a look at the labels on these products as well.
Food packaging labels on fresh produce have transformed the market over the last decade. Consuming quality food and keeping it safe from the time you receive it until you serve it is important. Often times, fresh products present special challenges in comparison to other food products. One of the key elements of maintaining quality is to be careful with the food from handling during the harvest until when it is served.
Grading and Standards
Did you know that few of the fresh produce items sold in the United States are actually graded? The USDA has established “grade standards,” which can be used to help make good decisions. In fact, most grade standards are Federal. However, some states have their own standards that have been established for certain produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables purchased under state standards generally do not have “U.S.” in the name of the grade according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.
To buy fresh produce and use it in a timely way, you want to know:
- What the vendor says its shelf life is
- How many days it has spent in transit to a distributor
- How long the distributor has kept it in storage
This allows you to determine the remaining shelf life before purchasing.
Every piece of fruit has a sticker and every vegetable has a scanning label, but did you know the numbers on these are codes provide information about the produce? The codes consist of 4 or 5 numbers and identify whether the produce is organic, grown with petroleum-based fertilizers or contain pesticides.
If a number is 4 digits it means the produce was grown in depleted soil and contains poisons. If the number is 5 digits and the first digit is 8 it means the produce is genetically modified. Genetically modified is when it contains genes not put there by nature. If the number is 5 digits and the first digit is 9 it means the produce has organic standard, but is not as strict as some produced by the serious organic farmer.
If you’re interested in finding out more about PLU numbers, simply go to the IFPS website, which provides the PLU database online. In addition to this, Natural News has more information about PLU labels.